A Q&A with SocialNightlife co-founder and CEO Artin Nazarian. The Los Angeles-based company was founded in January and just launched to the public.
SUB: Please describe SocialNightlife and your value proposition.
Nazarian: SocialNightlife is a powerful tool for nightlife professionals and an innovative social networking solution for nightlife fans. With SocialNightlife, nightlife professionals have an amazing new tool to help them manage guest lists and table reservations, offer incentives, as well as keep tabs on reporting and analytics. Regulars in the nightlife community will also find that SocialNightlife makes it easier than ever to connect with others, share content and find nearby events on the web or on the go.
The business and client management tools offer unique automation opportunities as it is tied to social features. This will free up industry professionals to focus on value-added tasks and improve the guest experience, which is one of our primary goals. For the fans and guests, we have gamified going out with virtual badges, or as we call them ‘bottles,’ in addition to allowing venues to incentivize repeat guests with real rewards. This is on top of a fun check-in feature we call ‘Appearances,’ as going to a hot venue with a group carries more weight than all the random check-ins that currently happen on other platforms. As you make an Appearance, you are able to quickly rate the venue or event as far as the line, guy-to-girl ratio, music, and energy. This review gets published to your network and the average rating rolls up to the overall venue rating. And a very rich and robust photo gallery with advanced editing options and hash tags offers the opportunity to aggregate nightlife photography into one location
In the big picture, we want to centralize a very fragmented industry using technology to facilitate the improvement of customer service and over all experience.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Nazarian: Socially active 18-to-35 year-old men and woman who frequent bars, nightclubs, lounges and events for special events or on a regular basis; venue owners that seek to better understand their customers; employees involved in managing the venues and marketing their events; and artists, such as musicians that seek a more effective way to stay in touch with their fans.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Nazarian: There is no product like SocialNightlife in the market where it combines consumer-facing social features with backend business tools that go beyond just marketing. This gives us a unique competitive edge. There are other event management tools like UrVenue which relies on a subscription model as their revenue stream. We have a more diversified revenue stream which allows us to offer a better value proposition. Facebook and other social networking sites are not direct competitors but we need to find a way to get adoption which is a challenge for any new product these days. We believe that the business tool adoption by the industry will drive adoption of the consumer features. We are currently gearing up for our initial marketing campaign during the spring break time period.
SUB: What differentiates SocialNightlife from the competition?
Nazarian: SocialNightlife is the only product of its kind in the market place where it offers consumer social features and business and client management tools in one package beyond marketing, which is the only business need that other social communities like Facebook and Twitter serve. This gives us a competitive edge as we have multiple revenue streams.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Nazarian: The SocialNightlife site and iPhone app launched in beta in January. From idea to inception, it has been a three year effort. Our initial steps were to do some market research, business analysis using methods like SWOT, and then trying to learn best practices around development and how to find a team to see if we had the finances to pursue it. We recognized that we needed an early version of the product to demo before trying to raise money, and that is what we did.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for SocialNightlife? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Nazarian: The idea was born at a pool party in Las Vegas, specifically Wet Republic at the MGM Grand. Over the years, I had been observing how there was very little technological innovation happening in the nightlife industry when it came to event and team management and customer service. The innovations were mainly happening in music and lighting. And I was getting very frustrated with the inconsistency in customer service, which is a pet peeve of mine. I had also observed how venues first started using MySpace profiles to represent their venues, which then became Facebook pages. But neither was designed for nightlife venues in mind. The MySpace profile was for a person, and Facebook pages are generic business pages. All of this came together for me and I knew there was a need. The industry needed tools to better manage events, team, and clients, and automate many of the mundane tasks, but it also needed its own community online. Also, we understand that the community aspect will take the business tools to an even higher level, as they will aid in automation which can impact and improve customer service levels, one of the primary goals of SocialNightlife.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Nazarian: We wanted a name that said ‘nightlife’ but also hinted that it was social, so ‘SocialNightlife’ was an easy next step. But the domain was taken. So, we initially settled with ‘MySocialNightlife’ as the owner of the domain ‘SocialNightlife’ had a very high price tag and we did not want to make the purchase until we had executed the first phase and had a product to demo. If this phase went well and we were able to raise money, we would try and acquire SocialNightlife.com, and that is what happened. We had a moment similar to the scene in The Social Network where Justin Timberlake says, “drop the ‘The’.” Once we got funding from an Angel investor he said, “Drop the ‘My’,” so we quickly moved to acquire SocialNightlife.com as that was our intention from day one. This Angel investor is now a partner, and we could not thank him enough for helping us get to where we are now.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Nazarian: Funding is the biggest obstacle. Technology moves so fast that you need funding to keep up and get the product out into the market.
SUB: You just launched to the public. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Nazarian: January and February are slower months in nightlife relative to other months. We wanted to launch the beta during this period to give us lead time to gear up for our initial marketing campaign during the spring break period, which also involves WMC and Miami Music Week towards the end of March.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding?
Nazarian: We have been fortunate to have support from an Angel investor who we consider a partner. This has been the main outside funding we have received and currently we are preparing for our Series A funding round.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Nazarian: Give the unique aspects of SocialNightlife, we have multiple revenue streams. This is what gives us our competitive edge. Having a social aspect, advertising is the obvious one. And the business tools offer the opportunity for subscription fees with the pro features we plan to offer. We also plan to roll out pro features for individual industry folks, and a SocialNightlife + account for general users, which will be a VIP account. There are other revenue streams that are in development.
SUB: What are your goals for SocialNightlife over the next year or so?
Nazarian: Initially it is to having a successful Series A fundraising. Then the plan this year is to tweak and improve the platform and work on marketing to gain traction and adoption. We will then roll out the premium features to support the subscription model of the revenue stream in addition to the Android app and iPad app.
SocialNightlife – www.socialnightlife.com